A paper trail: Preserving fragments of an epoch | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 15, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:20 AM, December 15, 2020

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A paper trail: Preserving fragments of an epoch

Collecting memorabilia is not a recent phenomenon, but appreciation for such assortments have today garnered much interest among the general populace. Ever since the days of our freedom struggle, there has been individuals who have preserved historical artefacts related to the Liberation War for future generations.

Some of the greatest museum archives that we now see today were made possible because of generous donations by some of these custodians of history. Others retain their personal collection till this day, a parallel repository that speaks volumes of our past, and present.

History is just; without exception, it narrates reality to those who seek it. Although there have been efforts to erase truth, epoch-making events in time leave traces of truth in everyday objects. All that is the needed is a clear mind that can make the right interpretations from the pieces of the puzzle lying with people and in official records.

Letters from war heroes, or a diary written in the battleground serves as the most important of wartime memorabilia. Also of importance are official notifications of the liberation army or the government opposing freedom. These are considered the most collection worthy.

Every day letters, notes and mail, however, can be of equal importance. Today, as the chronicles of history shifts from the narration of solely those who held important positions to narratives of the common people, simple everyday objects can help us understand the spirit of the wartime.

A simple calendar that marks the days of the year — the yearly holidays, and days of national significance that would have been observed in an otherwise mundane 365-day year — can serve as a significant relic of the past. A food coupon of an office cafeteria, can also be a testament of turbulent periods.

"What was served for lunch?" — One could wonder!

Time can be equally frozen in an inscription on a book on art, scribbled and dated at the moment of purchase, in the days of war. Or a driving licence issued in August, 1971.

Objects such as these can leave one amazed at how life went on when struggles raged on the war frontier.

Collectors of war memorabilia also include post 1971 material that narrate the saga of our freedom struggle.

Perhaps, what stands out most notable in such collections are mail addressed to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from various foreign origins.

The struggle for freedom can be viewed as the period of strife that lasted between 25 March and 16 December 1971. Or, it can be seen beyond those dates. The war ended in 265 days, but the aftermath of the war lasted years; perhaps we are yet to overcome the repercussions of the tumultuous times. 

There is no limit to the number of collectibles one must possess to be termed as a 'collector.' There are many amongst us who have artefacts from the past, perhaps a photograph of a late uncle who went to war and never returned? The bridal registration certificate of your mum who was married in the midst of the war.

Simply taking care of these can make significant contributions to the understanding of history.

At the end of the day, it is not important to be a collector of 1971 War memorabilia. However, one can never stress on the need of becoming custodians of historical pieces when one has a chance, no matter how mundane or unimportant they may seem to us today. Tomorrow, these are the very pieces that will remind us of glorious times, and the cost of freedom.

Photo Collection: Mannan Mashhur Zarif

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